WVU baseball senior Brophy discusses the season's end, future in baseball
On a Thursday afternoon at Monongalia County Ballpark, West Virginia senior third baseman Kevin Brophy was sitting on the field with some of his teammates, but it wasn’t in a practice nor game setting.
At that time, the Mountaineers were supposed to be traveling to Lubbock, Texas for a three-game series against the No. 2-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders, their first Big 12 series of the year.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in numerous cancellations taking place that day such as NCAA conference basketball tournaments and the NCAA Tournament, the team’s bus that was heading to the Pittsburgh International Airport turned around about one hour in.
After the series was cancelled, so too was the rest of the college baseball season quickly after.
“In my head, I thought that was it, I’ve played my last game here,” Brophy recalls thinking when he was sitting on the field with his teammates.
In the blink of an eye, the Mountaineers went from preparing for arguably their biggest test of the season against the Red Raiders to holding exit meetings with players the day after the cancellations.
Unexpectedly, the team’s final game of the 2020 season took place that Wednesday before--a 7-0 win over Liberty at Monongalia County Ballpark.
With an 11-5 record, the young Mountaineers were off to their best start since 2009 but were left with no opportunity to duplicate its historic success from a year ago nor redeem its postseason fortunes after last season’s heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M in the Morgantown Regional.
“It was god awful,” Brophy said regarding the season being cancelled. “You didn’t know how to react and it was a very empty feeling. It almost felt like I had no emotions for the first hour that I found out, but once it set it, it was pretty sad.”
For Brophy, it was another bump on the road to overcome, but one that was minimal compared to the major back surgery he underwent in early June 2018 and the death of his mother, Colleen, this past August after a three-year battle with breast cancer.
“Something like this is kind of minuscule compared to everything else that I’ve been through,” Brophy said. “So for me, it was kind of just another roadblock and how I was going to get by it (and) thinking ahead of how I was going to get through this.”
Head coach Randy Mazey’s advice was to head home and use the void to think about his future and talk things over with his family and friends.
Brophy soon returned to his home state of New Jersey to live with his father and is doing his best to stay in shape, keep busy and keep in contact with his teammates. His daily routine consists of waking up at 9 a.m. and making himself breakfast before going on a run.
After his run, he does a body weight workout. After Brophy returns home to eat lunch, he works on some homework or plays video games if he doesn't have any course work to do. Later in the afternoon, Brophy and his father head to a baseball field to work on his hitting and fielding.
By the time 8 p.m. hits, Brophy, an Atlanta Braves fan, and his father, Tom, a New York Mets fan, are back home watching old baseball games or movies.
“There’s little bit of a rivalry at the house,” Brophy said. “We’re near New York so we don’t get any Braves rewinds here, so we’re just sitting here watching Mets games all day and it kills me.”
So what does the future hold for Brophy?
While no decision has been made yet, one thing for sure is that he plans to be playing baseball next year.
Soon after spring sports were cancelled, there was instant discussion about granting another year of eligibility for spring-sport athletes, but there were questions regarding the logistics and how that’d affect sports like baseball.
NCAA Division I college baseball programs are allowed 35-man rosters with 27 of those players being placed on scholarship. Between those 27, 11.7 scholarships are divided and each of the 27 must receive at least 25% of a scholarship.
The NCAA Division I Council voted on Monday, March 30 to provide not just current senior spring-sport student-athletes an additional year of eligibility but all spring-sport student-athletes.
For the 2021 baseball season, seniors won’t count against the 35-count limit meaning teams can go over that amount as long as that overage just consists of those seniors who decide to return.
When it comes to scholarships and aid, the Division I Council decided to let the schools handle that themselves with the seniors which means these seniors can receive either no aid or at the most, the scholarship amount they were getting for the 2020 year.
“In my head, I thought I was going to get eligibility back and I was pretty excited when we found out that it was official,” Brophy said. “I think the NCAA did the right thing. It’s going to suck for some teams across the country that have to deal with a lot of seniors coming back.”
That’s not the case for the Mountaineers, who are in a better position compared to most with just three seniors and four juniors currently on the roster.
And not only that, the team’s seniors in Brophy, Dillon Meadows and Braden Zarbnisky will be welcomed back if they decide to go that route.
"We cherish guys that have been in the fire and wanted to be here and led our team," West Virginia assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Steve Sabins said. "Those guys will absolutely be taken care of. They absolutely have a spot on this roster. We want them back. (It’s) way too early to tell what's going to happen."
There are still questions regarding the MLB Draft such as when it’ll take place and how many rounds it’ll be. This year’s draft likely will be shortened from 40 rounds to anywhere from 5-10 rounds.
Right now, Brophy is just feeling things out and waiting to see how things unfold with the MLB Draft and the pandemic.
What’s certain for Brophy though is that not playing baseball next year isn’t an option.
“(Baseball’s) been my life and it has been since I could walk,” Brophy said. “If the draft comes around and it’s good then that’s what I’ll do, but if not, then I’ll have West Virginia for another year. You can’t beat that. I haven’t made a decision yet, but I have an idea of what I want to do.”
"No matter what, I need to play another year, so it's a win-win for me,” he later added.
West Virginia has held a special place in Brophy’s heart as well as his family’s before he even enrolled. His sister, Megan, graduated from West Virginia and was a member of the rowing team.
But his love for the program has only elevated over the course of his college career due to the team’s chemistry and “grinder” mentality.
“My favorite thing is just going out there and playing,” Brophy said. “I love playing in front of our home crowd. I love playing on our field and being a part of the team in general. The team here is way different than any team I’ve ever played with in my life--just how close everyone is and how much fun we have.”
That bond has continued even with the season not in session.
In times of uncertainty, we’re all in search of optimism, but Brophy has found just that even if that means potentially repeating the entire preparation process again.
“The conversations are still a little somber and sad, but at the same time, I think there’s excitement for next year too,” Brophy said. “It sucks that we have to go through a whole other fall and get ready all over again, but I think there’s positivity in the sadness as well.”
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